October 2 was a happy day in the Lexington, Kentucky, offices of Kentucky Refugee Ministries.
A visit from a supportive hiring manager from an environmental services firm ended with seven of the agency’s refugee clients securing their first full time jobs in the United States.
Charles Smith works for Grothall Environmental Services, a company that provides cleaning and environmental services for Lexington’s major hospitals, including the University of Kentucky Hospital system.
Grothall and KRM – EMM’s local affiliate – have long been close collaborators; the firm partners with KRM to hire many refugees each year. The recent meeting was the first time that Smith has visited the KRM offices to interview new Americans in a more comfortable setting, rather than asking them to come to his office.
It was an extraordinary gesture, said KRM job developer Dragana Zaimovic, driven by Smith’s previous positive experience with refugee hires.
“He hired refugees in the past and really became connected to them because they worked really well. [Smith] says they always come on time, they work really hard, and once the language barrier is overcome they make ideal employees,” said Zaimovic.
“Refugees are always known as the good workers – I hear this all the time from employers.”
For the seven newcomers hired by Grothall (six are pictured at right with KRM staffer Robby Lear), the job represents a tremendous opportunity.
Grothall offers permanent positions with flexible schedules that provide economic stability while allowing employees to pursue additional education.
KRM and other EMM affiliate partners prepare refugee clients for employment with intensive English language and job skills training in addition to job placement services.
And with the first job offer secured, refugees can begin to think about their own goals for the future, a critical development for people who have struggled with persecution and uncertainty.
“The first job is the most important thing. It just means, ‘I’m on my own, I can manage my own money. From now on I am in charge of my life,’” Zaimovic said.
“I came as refugee myself, and I remember the feeling. You want the chance to be 100 percent independent and live your own life.”